As young journalists of the 21st century, we are presented with a million different ways to give and receive information. Even in South Africa, where the majority of citizens do not have access to fast-pace internet, tweeting and blogging and facebooking and tumblring (tumbling?) are ever present. According to a survey conducted buy First National Bank and Wide Worx, in 2010, 65% of cellphone users have access to mobile internet. As such, journalists and citizens have the opportunity to create and recreate content about their lived experiences.
But presumably you knew all that. The contentious issue around these platforms is whether this is a good thing. Are we sacrificing quality content for mass quantity?
I think the answer is no. While as journalists, we would like to believe we have some level of monopoly over creative writing, this is certainly not the case. It is my contention that not only does social networking create the opportunity for new journalists who may not have had access to formal education, but also gives us "professional journalists" a run for our money.
As in any other industry, competition means that we are all forced to do better in order to keep our readership interested. As a result, as in any other industry, this means that the old guard feels a little threatened. Ron Steinman, NBC Media Bureau Chief during the Vietnam War describes cititzen journalists as "what they really are: untutored amateurs, the almost journalists of our modern age". Many journalists, possibly threatened by the emergence of a new order of content creators lash out against citizen journalism.
But when the media are kept out of private political meetings, not on the ground at certain events, or have simply missed the story, it is the citizen journalists who tell these stories. Like it or not, these stories need to be told, regardless of who we consider fit to tell them.
Platforms such as this blog, as well as Tumblr (http://binweadebayo.tumblr.com/) and other easy to use websites give us a greater slice of storytelling life. Instead of resisting this change, professional journalists should add to these forums and lend the voice of education and experience that many of these new contributors may like to hear.
South Africa is supposed to be the land of "endless possibility" and with that comes the idea that we should have equal and endless opportunity as well. While some blogs are simply used as a personal soapbox, there are a lot of interesting things happening in the blogosphere.
If you can dream it, you can blog it.
Here are some noteworthy (even award winning) local blogs:
-Kim Gray (Fashion): http://www.kimgray.co.za/
-Food and the Fabulous (Fine Dining): http://www.foodandthefabulous.com/
-Hayibo (Politics/Business): http://www.hayibo.com/
-Diary of Ward (Photography): http://diaryofward.com/